Health Benefits Of Vanilla

  • Ochuko Atenaga Second Class Upper Division, Psychology, University of Port Harcourt
  • Mayasah Al-Nema PhD in Pharmaceutical Sciences, UCSI University.
  • Olga Gabriel Master's degree, Forensic Science, Uppsala University, Sweden

Good health begins with what we eat, and food remains the best medicine. The meals you ingest can help improve your well-being. This is why people are encouraged to only consume what’s beneficial to their bodies.

We often think that eating right means going out of our way and spending fortunes on meals, which is far from the truth. In fact, all the food we need to stay healthy is closer to us than we can imagine.

A good example is vanilla, a spice that grows in pods and packs nutrients that will positively improve your health. While it is mostly considered a flavouring for ice creams and desserts, this plant is more than just its sweet taste.

This article will examine vanilla as a food, its sources, and components that can greatly improve your health. So, keep reading to find out about the health benefits of this plant.

What is vanilla?

Vanilla is a spice obtained from the pods of the species flat-leaved vanilla (Vanilla planifolia). The earliest versions of this crop grew wildly in the regions of the Gulf of Mexico and other parts of South America. Farmers usually groom the stalks around a pole or wood for support. As the flowers sprout, they are pollinated by small bees that reside within the region where it grows. After pollination occurs, the plant produces pods housing the vanilla beans. When it is time, the beans are harvested and cured.

This process involves sun-drying them for at least ten days till they turn chocolate brown. The vanilla extract that we use in food is obtained by crushing the cured dried vanilla beans and distilling it with alcohol. The dark brown liquid that is packed with flavour and taste is the end product of the process described above.

In the early 90s, the extract was used as a fragrance by perfume makers. According to these companies, pure vanilla oil had a “happy scent.” In recent times, vanilla has become an important ingredient in ice cream, cakes, and other desserts. The popularity of vanilla extract pushed the food industries to produce artificial vanilla extract.1

Health benefits of vanilla

Here are some reasons why you should add vanilla extract to your meals when it is applicable.

Antioxidant properties

Vanilla contains different components as part of its chemical structure. One of these components is vanillin, which is a chemical compound that gives vanilla its unique scent and taste. However, this component offers more than just the smell and flavour.

Vanillin has been proven by scientific research to have a stronger antioxidant ability than ascorbic acid (vitamin C).2 Thus, it helps to protect your body from free radicals.

Free radicals are unstable molecules formed during the oxidation process of metabolism. Metabolism includes chemical processes that occur within your body. It ranges from digesting food to breaking down fatty acids in your kidneys. Taking vanilla helps protect you against such adverse effects. In addition, recent studies also show that vanillin and vanillic acid protect vital organs like the brain from oxidative stress.3 It also prevents liver damage or injury.4

Anti-inflammatory properties

Inflammation is an essential part of a normal immune response. However, chronic inflammation is associated with several health concerns, like increased chronic disease risk. Thus, eating foods rich in anti-inflammatory compounds may reduce inflammatory markers in your body and improve overall health.5 

There is a part of the central nervous system (CNS) that triggers anti-inflammatory responses. It is called the microglia, and it plays a crucial role in your immune system's ability to protect you. This part of your CNS activates the necessary responses to diseases. However, studies show that the build-up of inflammatory compounds affects the performance of microglia. As such, anything that can help to suppress the production of toxic chemicals within the body helps to strengthen this body part.

Vanillin reduces the production of inflammatory markers such as nitric oxide, interleukin, and other bodily chemicals that lead to the buildup of harmful substances within the body.6

Digestive health

There is no doubt that sugar has become an addictive substance in recent times. If you are a sugar lover, vanilla extract is just perfect for you. Using vanilla bean or vanilla extract in foods and beverages could help reduce your added sugar intake.

Several studies showed that adding vanilla to sweets may reduce sugar cravings. A study conducted in 2020 found that adding vanilla aroma to sugary drinks increased their sweet taste.7 Whereas another study demonstrated that adding vanilla flavour to a reduced-sugar yoghurt did not affect its perceived sweetness.8

Vanilla has been proven to "soothe" the stomach. In addition, it reduces the build-up of inflammation in the digestive system and alleviates fever, spasms, and gastrointestinal irritations. Since vanilla doesn't have any sugar content, it can help regulate your blood sugar. Vanilla beans can also relieve your stomach upset diarrhea, and cramps.9

Cardiovascular health

It is a fact that what we eat affects our hearts. The body stores excess food as fat, which is later used as fuel to produce energy. 

Excessive fats accumulate in the inner lining of your blood vessels. This leads to narrowing down the vessels and preventing the blood flow. As such, your heart has to work twice its regular rate to pump the same amount of blood, leading to the development of cardiovascular conditions like high blood pressure, stroke, and heart failure.

With natural vanilla, people can cut down their sugar intake and reduce the chances of accumulating unhealthy fat. In addition, studies demonstrated that vanilla can directly reduce total cholesterol levels due to the presence of anillin and vanillic acid. Vanillic acid can also improve blood lipid profiles and lower blood pressure.9

Mood and mental health

People tend to eat more when they are in a bad mood or depressed. They seem to get better after consuming sweets like cakes or ice cream. Well, there is a scientific explanation for this phenomenon. Vanilla essential oil contains a component called vanillin hydroxybenzaldehyde, an effective antidepressant and mood lifter. This oil has a relaxing and calming effect on the brain and nerves that provide relief from anger, anxiety, and restlessness. Therefore, the vanilla essential oil is used widely in massage and aromatherapy.10

Skin and hair care

There is a reason why perfume makers use vanilla essence in their colognes and body sprays. These days, vanilla oil remains a vital component of skin care products such as lip balms, body lotions, and creams. It all goes to the benefits of vanilla extract or essence that extend to your skin. 

The antioxidant and antibacterial properties of vanilla make it beneficial to prevent skin damage and treat acne. Vanilla helps to slow down signs of aging, cleanse your skin, and reduce pimples and acne. 

In addition, vanilla essential oil promotes hair growth and makes your hair soft, silky and shiny.

Nutritional facts

One teaspoon of vanilla extract has the following nutrients in their respective quantities:11,12

  • Saturated Fat 0g 
  • Trans Fat 0g
  • Cholesterol 0mg 
  • Sodium 0.3mg 
  • Total Carbohydrate 0.5g
  • Dietary Fiber 0g
  • Total Sugars 0.5g
  • Vitamin D 0mcg
  • Calcium 0.5mg
  • Iron 0mg
  • Potassium 6.2mg
  • Vitamin A
  • Vitamin C 

Culinary uses of vanilla

There are various forms of vanilla use. However, we will be discussing the culinary uses.

Vanilla is often used as flavouring for the following food items:

  • Ice cream
  • Candy
  • Chocolate confectionery
  • Baked items
  • Liqueurs
  • Puddings
  • Cakes
  • Cookies
  • Dessert

Recommended dosage

Since people do not take vanilla extracts in their raw form, it is quite difficult to measure the extent to which they consume it. However, medical experts recommend people take 2g of vanilla extracts per 1 kg of the finished products. In addition, people are advised against taking vanilla oil or other by-products in their raw forms.

Side effects and other concerns

Before discussing the side effects, it is important to mention that the information stated so far mostly applies to the natural form of vanilla. There are several artificial vanilla extracts on the market, and each one has its own chemical composition.

Here are some common side effects of high doses of vanilla:

  • Headaches
  • Sleep problems (insomnia
  • Allergic skin reactions


Vanilla is a very beneficial spice that has become part of our daily lives. We use it for different purposes, from food preparation to skin and hair care. Its components present antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and even anti-depressant properties. Vanilla can also pose as a substitute for sugar, which has digestive and cardiovascular benefits. Despite its health potential, this spice can have some unpleasant side effects. More importantly, people are advised to obtain natural vanilla extracts to avoid possible problems.


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  3. Salau VF, Erukainure OL, Ibeji CU, Olasehinde TA, Koorbanally NA, Islam MS. Vanillin and vanillic acid modulate antioxidant defence system via amelioration of metabolic complications linked to Fe2+-induced brain tissues damage. Metab Brain Dis [Internet}. 2020 Jun [cited 2023 Sep 4];35(5):727–38. Available from 
  4. Makni M, Chtourou Y, Fetoui H, Garoui EM, Boudawara T, Zeghal N. Evaluation of the antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and hepatoprotective properties of vanillin in carbon tetrachloride-treated rats. European Journal of Pharmacology [Internet]. 2011 Oct 1 [cited 2023 Sep 4];668(1):133–9. Available from:
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  6. Costantini E, Sinjari B, Falasca K, Reale M, Caputi S, Jagarlapodii S, et al. Assessment of the vanillin anti-inflammatory and regenerative potentials in inflamed primary human gingival fibroblast. Mediators Inflamm [Internet]. 2021 May 4 [cited 2023 Sep 4];2021:5562340. Available from:
  7. Bertelsen AS, Mielby LA, Alexi N, Byrne DV, Kidmose U. Individual differences in sweetness ratings and cross-modal aroma-taste interactions. Foods [Internet]. 2020 Feb 1 [cited 2023 Sep 4];9(2):146. Available from:
  8. Oliveira AAA, Andrade AC, Bastos SC, Condino JPF, Curzi Júnior A, Pinheiro ACM. Use of strawberry and vanilla natural flavours for sugar reduction: A dynamic sensory study with yoghurt. Food Res Int [Internet]. 2021 Jan [cited 2023 Sep 4];139:109972. Available from:
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  10. Raina R. Technology and infestation of spices & plantation products. [cited 2023 Sep 4]; Available from:
  11. Vanilla extract calories, carbs & nutrition facts | myfitnesspal [Internet]. [cited 2023 Sep 5]. Available from:
  12. Vanilla extract nutrition facts and analysis. [Internet]. [cited 2023 Sep 5]. Available from:
This content is purely informational and isn’t medical guidance. It shouldn’t replace professional medical counsel. Always consult your physician regarding treatment risks and benefits. See our editorial standards for more details.

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Ochuko Atenaga

Second Class Upper Division, Psychology, University of Port Harcourt

My name is Ochuko, and I am a seasoned web content writer who simplifies the most complex ideas. For half a decade, I have written content on Blockchain, NFTs, Digital Marketing, eCommerce Development, G Health, Technology, Lifestyle, Tourism, Hospitality, and gambling. During this period, he has worked with top brands like Clario, CryptoGames3D, Amazix, AIKON, Progos Tech, Webzool, Zenith Chain, Jungle NFT Marketplace etc. presents all health information in line with our terms and conditions. It is essential to understand that the medical information available on our platform is not intended to substitute the relationship between a patient and their physician or doctor, as well as any medical guidance they offer. Always consult with a healthcare professional before making any decisions based on the information found on our website.
Klarity is a citizen-centric health data management platform that enables citizens to securely access, control and share their own health data. Klarity Health Library aims to provide clear and evidence-based health and wellness related informative articles. 
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